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NEWSLETTER JULY 2016


IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Dare Finally More Europe - The Civil Society Perspective after the Brexit Vote >>

TOP NEWS

"Europe Lab": Dialogue, Courage, and Complexity of Topics >>
Call for Contributions: 
Survey on the Challenges in the EU and Russia >>

STEERING COMMITTEE
Statement "Fight Against Terror Should in No Way Be an Excuse for Violation of Fundamental Rights" >>

WORKING GROUPS
Rights in Prison: Italian and Russian Human Rights Defenders Meet in Rome >>

MEDIA
Bálint Jósa (Subjective Values Foundation, Budapest, Hungary): 'Russia Joining the EU Should Be a Long-Term Objective for the European Union' >>


MEMBERS' VIEWS
Memorial International (Moscow, Russia): A Wilberforce Medal for Memorial >>
Agency for Social Information (Moscow, Russia): Elena Topoleva-Soldunova Awarded the "Person of the Year" Title by the Donors' Forum >>
CEE Bankwatch (Prague, Czech Republic): Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company >>

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Dare Finally More Europe - The Civil Society Perspective after the Brexit Vote

On request of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, Conny Reuter, Secretary General at the SOLIDAR Foundation (Brussels, Belgium), prepared an essay on the European civil society challenges after the Brexit vote:

 

The British EU referendum has not really changed Europe, but the challenges have become clearer.  We have to acknowledge that a majority of British citizens has democratically expressed the wish to leave the European Union, a decision, which we need to respect, but which will have many negative consequences for the British people themselves as well as Europe.

Since the United Kingdom joined the European Union, a series of unfortunate compromises have paved the route, finally culminating in the Brexit vote. For too long, European leaders have accepted these weakening compromises and given up on too many issues like the Social Union or the still missing regulation of financial markets, in order to keep the Union together.

The vote represents a historic break with the notion that European integration is an ongoing, progressing project that will help to overcome the divisions among states and peoples and will ensure social and territorial cohesion, prosperity, well-being and peace for all.

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TOP NEWS

"Europe Lab": Dialogue, Courage, and Complexity of Topics

On 21-24 July 2016, the 2nd edition of the “Europe Lab” Forum in Croatia brought together around 80 young professionals aged between 25 and 35 from 26 European countries working in NGOs, think tanks, universities, business, public administration, and other fields of professional engagement. 

The opening of the Forum took place on 21 July at the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb, but its major events were held in Vukovar, a town on the Croatian-Serbian border. Its siege in August-November 1991 cost thousands of victims and displaced persons, while the town was almost completely destroyed.

Vukovar as a scenery for one of the most tragic pages in the modern history of the Balkans helped our participants to better understand, how complex the topics of war memories and reconciliation are, - says Vesna Teršelič, Founder and Director at the “Documenta” Centre for Dealing with the Past, Coordinator of the Workshop “Wars After 1989 – Is There a Chance for Reconciliation?” (Croatia). – Even 25 years after the siege of Vukovar, the situation in the town is far from a peaceful resolution, many issues have been silenced or not mentioned. When talking of other conflicts around the world – such as Ukraine or Nagorno-Karabakh, we have to bear in mind, how fast a peace might be destroyed and how long we need for its re-establishment.

The workshop on historical memory is a traditional topic for “Europe Lab”: Its predecessor – the “Pilorama Lab” Forum – was held in 2012 at the Memorial Centre of Political Repression “Perm 36” in Russia. Another connection to “Perm 36” was corresponded by a private screening of Sergei Kachkin’s new documentary about the former detention site for political prisoners. Finally, the participants had a chance to visit the Ovčara Mass Grave nearby Vukovar as well as the Jasenovac Concentration Camp Memorial Site.

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TOP NEWS

Call for Contributions: Survey on the Challenges in the EU and Russia

In the run-up of the publishing of the First Annual Report on the state of civil society, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum invites non-governmental organisations from Germany, Russia, and Spain to take an online survey on the most important trends and challenges for the civil society in the EU and Russia.

The survey is open until 31 August 2016 and will require 7-10 minutes of your time. Your answers will help the authors to better understand the current developments in the specific countries and are therefore indispensable for a first-hand overview of what is going on in Russia and the European Union.

The Annual Report is going to be presented at the 7th General Assembly of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum (1-3 February 2016, Helsinki, Finland).

To take the survey in the respective language, please follow the link for questions in German, Russian, or Spanish. Thank you for your support.

STEERING COMMITTEE

Statement "Fight Against Terror Should in No Way Be an Excuse for Violation of Fundamental Rights"

The Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its deep concern about the adoption of amendments to the Russian federal anti-terror legislation, also known – after its author - as the “Yarovaya Law Package”. We call on the international community to raise its voice against those amendments, which violate several fundamental rights and freedoms.

By requiring Internet service providers to store all content and metadata for six months and grant access to security services to all encrypted communications, the Russian authorities show a profound disrespect for the right to privacy. This new legislation represents an excess of discretionary powers transferred to security services and a threat to the Russian society, civic organisations and their supporters, says Simon Papuashvili of the Steering Committee.

By circumscribing religious activities, like preaching or praying, to “specially designated places”, the Russian legislation is limiting the religious freedoms in the Russian Federation. Finally, criminalisation of the failure to report to authorities third persons´ active or passive involvement in terrorist crimes, contribution to extremist activities, or an international terrorist act recalls one of the deplorable practices of Soviet times. It can all too easily be selectively used for repressing critical voices and will certainly add to the climate of self-censorship and growing mistrust in the Russian society.

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WORKING GROUPS

Rights in Prison: Italian and Russian Human Rights Defenders Meet in Rome

On 6-8 July 2016, a working meeting of the team of the "Rights in Prison. EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and the Defence of Fundamental Rights in the Penitentiary System" Project supported within the Forum's Open Call Mechanism (OCM) took place in Rome, Italy.

Apart from the project partners - Alessio Scandurra from the "Antigone" Association (Rome) and Irina Protasova from the NGO "Man and Law" (Yoshkar-Ola), the events gathered representatives of the civilian oversight commissions from the Republic of Mari-El and the Tomsk Region and the "For Civil Rights" Committee (Russia) as well as NGOs "A Buon Diritto" and "Forum Droghe" (Italy), and others.

Italian human rights defenders organised a workshop for Russian colleagues, which was devoted to the local penitentiary system and activities of Italian NGOs in the field of civilian oversight and prisoner's rights, while the guests were speaking about similarities and differences in these questions in Russia. The participants also got first-hand experiences with the local penitentiary system while visiting the Regina Coeli prison. Besides, they had an opportunity to talk to Professor Mauro Palma, Prisoners' Ombudsperson and Head of the National Preventive Mechanism.

On 6 July 2016, the Open Event "Civil Society in Russia and Italy. Share of Experiences and Cooperation Opportunities" was held. It was attended by Italian organsations interested in establishment of contacts to Russian colleagues - the local branch of Amnesty International, the CILD Network, Magen David Keshet Italia, Progetto Diritti, and the Active Citizenship Network, which joined the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum shortly after the meeting.

Finally, the OCM project partners discussed further cooperation steps like preparation of a publication on  the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which affected penitentiary systems of member states of the Council of Europe; collection of data on best practices of NGOs working in the field of prisoners' rights; and another exchange visit - this time for Italian human rights defenders to Russia.


The meeting in Rome has been interesting and challenging at the same time, - sums up Alessio Scandurra. - Share of information and views with foreign colleagues is always valuable. But if there is an opportunity to do something together, to carry out a common piece of work, that becomes even more intense and fruitful.

MEDIA

Bálint Jósa (Subjective Values Foundation, Budapest, Hungary): 'Russia Joining the EU Should Be a Long-Term Objective for the European Union'

To watch the interview on YouTube, please follow the link

Mr Jósa, you represent the Subjective Values Foundation - apart from your big role in the UNITED Network. I always wondered: Why “Subjective Values”? What stands behind this name?

There is a historical and a philosophical background behind that. The historical one is very simple – it is a university project from the 2000s. In those times, we ran the “Subjective Radio” Station. It was called so – now I am coming to the philosophical part – due to the fact that the radio was an open forum for many-many cultural and philosophical ideas. Both right populists as well as left-wing and communist politicians were coming to us. The original name of the station had been “Publikum”, but after a while we came up with the title “Subjective Radio”. So, we used to work there, met there, and we generally like this idea of being open to different concepts. By definition, ‘subjective’ is about not telling anyone what they have to think, it is about a dialogue and incorporation of different ideas. Besides, values as such are not carved in stone. Of course, while growing up, your family, your background, or your culture give you certain values, but those should be questioned, ie they should not be objective values that are given but one must always think about them and question them. What we have experienced so far, you are not the only one, who does not know, what stands behind the Subjective Values Foundation: So, people tend to remember our name, because it is a catchy one.

I have just taken a look at your website and recognised that you were dealing with so many issues - such as culture, education, human rights, migration, refugees, and so on. What are the most important projects you are working on right now?

It is difficult to make priorities. For us, every project is important. We are members of many networks, so each network is one category in itself. For instance, we implement such projects as “Football against Racism”, a lot of festivals, cultural events, discussions, film screenings.  We also have a very strong integrational part: For five years so far, we have been involved in a project connected to social entrepreneurship of migrants. Moreover, we foster cultural diversity and, for instance, celebrated the Chinese New Year together with the Chinese minority in Hungary. We are also a member of the National Campaign Committees in Hungary, and I am myself a European activist. More than that, we implemented several action days connected to the Human Rights Calendar – such as the Refugee Day or the Human Rights Day in summer, ie we are trying to be involved in everything that happens in Hungary. Simultaneously, we would like to be a hub for projects: If there is a good idea, the author may come to the Subjective Values Foundation - and we help to create a project based on this idea. We have a good mix of such projects devoted to migrants or solidarity. We help the authors, provide them with finances legal assistance, and even host them at our premises. When it comes to discrimination, volunteers, European values, “Szubjektiv” is there.

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MEMBERS' VIEWS

Memorial International (Moscow, Russia): A Wilberforce Medal for Memorial

On 27 July 2016, Memorial was awarded the Wilberforce Medal. British Ambassador Dr Laurie Bristow personally handed this over to Alexander Cherkasov and Arseni Roginsky. The medal was awarded "For the Protection of Human Rights in the Russian Federation and the Perpetuation of the Memory of Victims of the State Persecution".

Read more

 

Agency for Social Information (Moscow, Russia): Elena Topoleva-Soldunova Awarded the "Person of the Year" Title by the Donors' Forum

On 20 July 2016, a presentation of the 5th Annual Report of the Donors' Forum took place at the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation - traditionally with results of the state of the art and development of charity foundations in Russia.

Presentation of the report started with the announcement of the "End of the Year" Annual Rating results by the Donors' Forum.

Elena Topoleva-Soldunova, Board Member of the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation, member of the Commission on Social Policy, Labour Relations, and Quality of Life of Citizens at the Public Chamber, Head of the Agency for Social Information, was awarded the "Person of the Year" Title.

Read more (in Russian)

 

CEE Bankwatch (Prague, Czech Republic): Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company

Counter Balance and its partner Bankwatch have launched a new report exploring corruption cases in Romania’s third largest company. The Oltenia Energy Complex (OEC) is a key player in the energy sector in Romania and today operates ten lignite mines and four power plants. Supposed recipient of a EUR 200 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), OEC stands out for a long list of corruption scandals collected in the last decade.

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